#yycLCL July 2021

Keshia leads Quest Theatre campers through a scene
Quest Theatre campers create skills with the guidance of talented instructors like Keshia | Photo: Quest Theatre

#yycLCL July 2021

Our fearless adventurers’ plane crashes when they discover their co-pilot is not a pilot at all but a chef! Undeterred, they continue to search for the missing dragon’s eggs so they can finally get off the island!

I consider myself to be very creative. I’m addicted to the feeling of the mind stretching to find a unique solution. I love true collaboration. True collaboration being stupid idea friendly people who will still work with me if I fail. I also am a Pisces. The only thing about being a Pisces that I identify with is the fact that my mother would say I’m like two fish swimming in the opposite direction.

If someone offers, or argues, one perspective, I always support or defend the opposite perspective. Then, when meeting someone who shares my opinion, I’ll flip my argument, because I can always see it from the other side. If someone comes with a good idea, I’ll spin it and find a better idea. I remember I scored very high on those spatial awareness tests as a teenager—you know the one where you turned objects around and flipped them upside down in your head to see what something looked like from the other side. I figure this mind-bending dexterity has a lot to do with creativity in my case, but I really don’t understand where my ideas, my desire for doing things differently, or my love of tinkering comes from. I just find great joy in it.

A professional artist needs a lot of other traits to succeed, but understanding their creative process is at the top of the list. You don’t need to be a professional artist, however, to find great joy and extraordinary benefits in exploring the creative process.

When I took my dream job as artistic director at Quest Theatre, Calgary’s only professional theatre for young people in 2009, the company already had an excellent reputation in facilitating and developing the creative process in young people. What I didn’t understand is why this activity was not valued in the community as I believe it should be.

We conduct summer camps and in-school programs that frame theatre making as an exploration in a collaborative creative process. We try very hard not to tell young people how to perform or choose the best talent to showcase, rather we try to allow the group to find their way.

Sometimes it is challenging to allow a child or a class to lead creation when the mature artist within us knows how to make a scene “better” or “more effective” for an audience. We must keep in mind that getting behind a child’s idea goes further in developing their love of creativity and their sense of self, than pleasing a parent with a sensational performance.

Holding true to this value challenges our personal sense of achievement, but we must let children explore the creative process free of judgement. This means that occasionally performances are truly terrible—which is allowed if the children love doing it. Children love doing it when they feel ownership of the activity, when they have created it themselves. Creativity is like a muscle that needs to find itself and be encouraged to grow for the pure joy of being creative. Too often young people are judged, rejected, assessed, ranked, or even given a prize for their creativity before the pure enjoyment of the creative process takes hold.

The creative process builds confidence because young people are free to pose questions, make mistakes, collaborate, test theories, express themselves, and play with ideas, thoughts, feelings, and perspectives. There is no right answer, no perfect solution, and it can evolve, reverse, and expand with more tinkering. Somehow this messy, clunky, enjoyable, liberating activity encourages friendships, resiliency, enthusiasm, and pride. Theatre is the most collaborative of all the artistic practices. It teaches us to be in community with each other like nothing else I know.

Quest envisions a galaxy where theatre is valued as an essential part of growing up. Play is instrumental to learning as evidenced by babies and preschoolers; play is all they do.

Teachers understand the importance of play in a growing child, but encouraging play, make believe or creativity in a teenager, young adult or adult takes much more courage. Sometimes I marvel at what our young people come up with. This years’ summer camp creations include an orangutan guard from Jersey, a full Lord of the Rings inspired fantasy journey about the myth of the cyclops, which included a sequence with a magic can of baked beans, a film noir inspired murder mystery with elves, clowns, human detectives, and wizards, pop stars committing insurance fraud then fleeing to outer space, magical dragon eggs that can only be rescued if eyeballs from the top of a mountain are stolen, bumbling detectives who deny help from ghosts and other ridiculous, organic, and brilliant acts of pure creativity.

A class with a unified vision of the story they wish to tell is a thing of beauty. I often think… an adult would never have the guts to do what these kids are doing.

If we can instill a fearlessness in a child’s creative process, if we can facilitate that passionate, ridiculous vision of a group of youngsters, if we can accept young people’s chaotic search for their evolving voices and restrain our obviously superior adult judgement, perhaps we can allow theatre making to become an essential building block in young people’s journey towards being passionate, courageous, collaborative, and creative human beings. This is what we always strive to do.

I strongly encourage anyone who used to be a child, to re-kindle their exploration of the creative process. You don’t have to be good at it; you just have to find joy in it.

Quest Theatre creates smart, whimsical, and visually stunning theatre that engages young people and their families! Learn more at questtheatre.org and follow them on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

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